President Donald Trump will be leaving the White House, but Trumpism could be around for the foreseeable future.
That was the consensus among the George Mason University political scientists gathered on Tuesday, Nov. 10 for a virtual post-election panel discussion that welcomed nearly 200 viewers. Mark J. Rozell, the founding dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government, hosted the more than hour-long event and was joined by Bill Schneider and Jennifer N. Victor in a look back at the bitterly contested recent U.S. elections and their significance before taking questions from their audience.
All three panelists pointed to the fact that more than 72 million Americans voted for Trump as proof that we can expect more of the same in the near future.
“He wasn’t a tried-and-true Republican,” said Victor, an associate professor of political science. “He held a lot of political beliefs that ran counter to the Republican Party. Eventually when he started winning elections and it became clear [in 2016] he was going to be the nominee, the party really fell in line behind him and that has created this real phenomenon of Trumpism, where he has essentially captured the Republican Party.”
Trump, who is contesting his loss to Democrat Joe Biden, didn’t create the hyper-partisanship that is so prevalent throughout America now. It has long been a staple of American politics, said Schneider, adding that Trump has only increased the divide.
“The Republican Party is divided between establishment conservatives and Trumpists,” said Schneider, a professor of public policy and public and international affairs and a former CNN political analyst. “And, in that dimension, I think Trump probably has the upper hand because he’s popular – establishment conservatives are not.”
The 45th president isn’t likely to go away quietly anytime soon, and could possibly run again for president in 2024, the Mason political pundits agreed.
“I think that means Trumpism is here to stay for a while,” Victor said.
Schneider said the issue of character is what hurt Trump’s re-election chances more than anything else.
“Donald Trump reminds every woman of their first husband,” he joked.
Overall, roughly 150 million Americans voted in the recent elections, with Biden capturing a record total of more than 77 million votes. Trump totaled roughly five million more votes in 2020 than he did four years earlier, and the predicted “blue wave” of Democratic victories did not materialize. The U.S. population is roughly 330 million people.
Like the nation as a whole, Virginia saw a big spike in voter turnout as well, its 73 percent turnout coming just shy of the state record 74 percent from Barack Obama’s historic run to the presidency in 2008, Rozell said.
But the Mason political scientists agreed the increased vote totals were mixed news as they could be directly attributed to the negative partisanship and ugly polarization seen all across America, and that we can expect more of the same in the immediate future.
“On the one hand, more people voting is good for democracy,” Victor said. “That’s democracy in action. On the other hand, most of the people who are voting are voting out of a sense of anger or fear or this negative partisanship phenomenon. And that, to me, is democracy degrading.”
Looking ahead to next year’s Virginia gubernatorial race, Rozell noted that the political party winning the White House has typically fared poorly in the Commonwealth the following year in what has become an early midterm correction of sorts.
“If historical patterns hold, it should be a good year for the Republicans,” he said.